TUSCALOOSA, AL (WIS) – SEC CHAMPS!!! Second ranked South Carolina (44-12, 22-8 SEC) broke out of the gates with an early two-run lead and behind solid work from starter Colby Holmes and three relievers the Gamecocks defeated Alabama (32-24, 14-16) 3-2 on Saturday afternoon to claim at least a share of the SEC Championship. It is the school's third SEC Championship in baseball and the first since the 2002 regular season. Carolina also won the 2000 SEC Championship. Carolina also claims at least a share of the SEC Eastern Division title, the school's fifth (1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2011). South Carolina heads to Hoover, Ala. as the No. 1 seed in the SEC Tournament that begins next Wednesday at Regions Park.
South Carolina broke ahead by two runs in the first two innings. The Gamecocks took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Peter Mooney singled up the middle and Scott Wingo singled to right field to get things started and put runners on the corners with no outs. Mooney would then score on Christian Walker's RBI sacrifice fly to right field. That lead would increase to 2-0 in the second inning as Steven Neff delivered with a solo home run to right field, his fourth home run of the season, and fourth homer in last 15 at-bats.
Zeroes would then be the story for much of the middle of the game as Holmes and Alabama starter Jonathan Smart went back and forth without yielding any more runs. The Crimson Tide eventually got to Holmes in the seventh inning and with the bases loaded and two outs, Brock Bennett drew a walk against Gamecock reliever John Taylor to cut Carolina's lead to 2-1.
The Gamecocks answered as Adrian Morales came up with a big RBI for Carolina in the eighth inning to take a 3-1 lead. Walker led off with a double that frame and scored on a single to left field off the bat of Morales. Alabama, however, answered the Gamecocks and scored a single run in the eighth inning to cut the Gamecock lead to 3-2. Austen Smith led off with a walk and Brett Booth doubled to give Alabama runners on second and third with one out. Tyler Webb would get Andrew Miller to ground out to Mooney at short as Smith scored the second run of the game for Alabama. Enter Matt Price, who after hitting pinch hitter Brandt Hendricks, struck out pinch hitter Jon Kelton to keep Carolina ahead by a run.
That was all that Price needed as he came up big in the ninth going three up and three down against the Crimson Tide to clinch the championship for Carolina. Price coaxed Taylor Dugas into a fly out to center field, tallied the second out on a ground ball to shortstop off the bat of Brock Bennett and sealed the win with a strikeout looking against Jared Reaves.
South Carolina had 12 hits while Alabama just had five on the afternoon. Evan Marzilli was 4-for-4, a career-high in hits for him. Wingo went 3-for-5 and Peter Mooney added two hits as well. Booth went 2-for-4 with a run scored to lead Alabama at the plate.
Holmes earned the win and is now 6-2 on the year. He allowed one run on four hits with five strikeouts and four walks. Price picked up his 15th save with 1.1 hitless innings and a pair of strikeouts. Alabama starter Jonathan Smart took the loss and is 4-2 for the season. He allowed three runs on 12 hits with two strikeouts and one walk.
More information on next week's SEC Tournament will be posted as soon as the bracket is announced. By virtue of wins over Florida and Vanderbilt, the Gamecocks have earned the No. 1 seed and will face the No. 8 seed in the third game of the SEC Tournament on Wednesday in Hoover, Ala.